Film and TV

Cherokee Creek, Dallas Actor's Bloody Funny Bigfoot Movie, Premieres Thursday

Actor, writer and director Todd Jenkins (left) sets up a scene in a wooded area of Melissa with actor Billy Blair for Jenkins's new film, Cherokee Creek.
Actor, writer and director Todd Jenkins (left) sets up a scene in a wooded area of Melissa with actor Billy Blair for Jenkins's new film, Cherokee Creek. Suzanne E. Williams/courtesy Todd Jenkins
The story behind Cherokee Creek is more than just the usual tale of an ambitious filmmaker enduring obstacles such as dwindling funding, long editing sessions and persuading the cast to do nude scenes in freezing weather.

The raunchy horror-comedy and first full-length film written and directed by actor Todd Jenkins, which premieres Thursday at the Angelika Film Center, is about how a friendship between two hardworking actors helped them during the hard times and breathed life into the bloody, bawdy Bigfoot movie they've wanted to make for a long time.

"It was not all fun and games," says actor and Jenkins' friend Billy Blair who stars in Cherokee Creek. "Halfway into the film, we wanted to call it quits. Everything went wrong, but we looked into the future and we realized we've got to get it done."

Cherokee Creek is an unapologetic mix of raunchy comedy and bloody horror in which horny guys throw a bachelor party in the woods with a van loaded with booze and strippers, and the infamous beast crashes the party.

click to enlarge COURTESY THE MOVIE
courtesy the movie
Jenkins is a Plano native who's acted in movies and TV shows such as Nashville and CBS's reboot of MacGyver. He met Blair — an El Paso native and Dallas actor who has appeared in movies such as Robert Rodriguez's Machete, Sin City: A Dame to Die For and the upcoming Alita: Battle Angel — on the set of the post-apocalyptic action movie Apocalypse Road. Later, they worked together on a horror movie called Bigfoot Wars, which inspired them to make their own Bigfoot movie.

"The movie was just so much fun to work on, and when it came out, it was the worst piece of crap I've ever seen," Jenkins says. "I thought, 'Finally, there's going to be a good Bigfoot movie.'"

Jenkins learned that his family owned a large wooded area in Melissa, so he decided to make the Bigfoot movie that he and Blair wanted to see on the big screen.

"I was already on board," Blair says. "We have to do a Bigfoot movie because there are so many zombie movies and vampire movies, so let's do a Bigfoot movie."

Jenkins and Blair started rounding up actors as Jenkins wrote the script. He finished a working story in just two weeks and started filming as soon as he had enough money for the cast and film equipment. Working around the cast's busy lives outside of the movie became one of the film's biggest obstacles.

"We had to have tunnel vision because we had people dying on us left and right," Jenkins says. "My mom was in the hospital with pneumonia for three months, and she was in the movie. I was sick at one point. I would have to ask someone, 'Here, hold the camera so I can throw up.'"

Another problem was trying to find actresses who would be willing to do nude scenes on camera.

"Whatever we have the women do, the guys will have to do it, too, and worse," Jenkins insisted during casting. "It's equal-opportunity exploitation."

That still wasn't enough to cast the female roles because "Texas is very commercial, and agents don't support that kind of stuff," Jenkins says. So they hired exotic dancers and photography models who are used to being seen nude and didn't mind being drenched in fake blood.

"Agents would tell them, 'Don't take that part,'" Blair says. "We offered so much money, but they still wouldn't touch it."

Filming took six months because of the schedules of the cast and crew. They also had to shoot at night during one of the colder parts of the year. Blair says he was glad Jenkins wrote a campfire scene into the story.

"During takes, we were huddling around it, and when he said, 'Action,' we had to pretend we were all doing OK," Blair says. "It was work, but we were like, 'Let's get it done,' and even though some of the actors would complain, we would always have that one guy who's like, 'Come on, let's do it.'"

Wrangling the crew and making sure they were giving the film what it needed became another challenge. One of the biggest parts of the film's budget was the costume for Bigfoot. The costume Jenkins borrowed only cost $1,000, but it wasn't as fearsome as the beast in his head.

"It wasn't as hairy as I wanted, so we started ripping hair off anything to put the hair on him," Jenkins says. "I had a Halloween costume, and we just took all the hair off of it."

The result is something fierce that has its own rules in the storyline.

"The whole thing that makes our Bigfoot different is they have these rules," Jenkins says. "I interviewed hunters who would say that deer would pee in certain areas, and they would know not to come into those areas. I thought that would be so ridiculous, but it would also be true."

Jenkins and Blair aren't willing to talk much more about the movie because surprise is one of the keys to making horror and comedy movies work for the audience. Even the trailers don't reveal much because Blair says, "We hate trailers that give everything away."

"There's a story involved that doesn't pertain to Bigfoot, and all of a sudden, we bring in the Bigfoot," he says. "It's 50 percent an '80s Bigfoot horror movie and 50 percent raunchy comedy."

That's a gutsy move for an indie horror comedy but they've built an impressive amount of buzz just from social media. The film's premiere on Thursday is already sold out, and Jenkins is promising "a rock show" for the fans. Depending on how well the premiere does, Jenkins says, he wants to take the film on the road and host screenings for fans who supported him.

"You've got to give this guy props," Blair says. "Director, sound guy, color corrector, editor, he did it all."

Blair says the trust he and Jenkins have in each other and the people they worked with make Cherokee Creek even more rewarding to watch.

"I'm proud and I'm glad I listened to him," Blair says. "He did his research, and I said whatever you think is best for the movie, that's where we'll go. I'm glad we stood by it. We put our pride away and finished the movie."

click to enlarge Jenkins prepares a shot while he's in front of the camera. - SUZANNE E. WILLIAMS/COURTESY TODD JENKINS
Jenkins prepares a shot while he's in front of the camera.
Suzanne E. Williams/courtesy Todd Jenkins
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.